HabitAware Initiates Research to Further Develop Keen Awareness Bracelet as a Treatment for Trichotillomania and other BFRBs

Minneapolis, MN — 

We are so excited to make this announcement!  We know Keen is helping people build their awareness muscles. We also know our awareness bracelet has much more to give the BFRB community. By working with top researchers we can unleash the potential.


HabitAware was awarded a $300,000 federal research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to further develop and test its innovative wearable device for treating trichotillomania, a debilitating mental health disorder that involves compulsive hair pulling and affects 180 million people worldwide. “We are grateful for this opportunity to make a tremendous contribution to trichotillomania treatment and the mental health community,” says Sameer Kumar, CEO of HabitAware, a company he co-founded in 2015 with his wife, Aneela, after initial prototypes helped her take control of her trichotillomania. This video shares why they invented the device to help others:


The study will evaluate the feasibility of a novel trichotillomania treatment using Keen, the awareness bracelet HabitAware developed. Keen uses patented gesture detection technology. A user trains the Keen bracelet by performing the exact behavior they want to reduce (e.g. hair pulling). Keen continuously monitors the user’s wrist, vibrating when it detects the trained behavior. The vibration interrupts the behavior, creating awareness and allowing the user to make healthier choices. Through the study, HabitAware will develop Keen into a tool to self-administer Habit Reversal Training (HRT), one of the few evidence-based treatments for trichotillomania.



Trichotillomania severely impairs social, physical and mental well-being and is often undiagnosed, with limited treatment options. “Trichotillomania is misunderstood even though it so common. Sufferers hide in silence, shame and fear of judgement,” shares Aneela Idnani Kumar, a trichotillomania sufferer and HabitAware co-founder.

The research is a collaboration between HabitAware and Douglas Woods, PhD, Marquette University Psychology Department, a leading researcher in the field of trichotillomania and Scientific Advisory Board member of the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors. “Keen has great potential to improve trichotillomania outcomes and we are looking forward to collaborating to determine the effectiveness of Keen as a treatment for trichotillomania and other body focused repetitive behaviors.”

The award is a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 Grant. HabitAware received guidance and advice from the MN SBIR program at the Minnesota High Tech Association, to prepare and submit the grant proposal. “HabitAware has all the elements of a successful tech start-up,” says Pat Dillon, MN SBIR Program Director. “The SBIR Phase 1 grants are competitive and show a vote of confidence in HabitAware’s technology and capabilities. Most exciting is the potential for additional SBIR funding to continue this R&D.”

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R43MH114773. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the NIMH.

About HabitAware
HabitAware makes Keen, a smart bracelet to help manage trichotillomania (hair pulling), skin picking, nail biting and other compulsive behaviors. Keen allows users to retrain their brain by vibrating whenever it detects a specific trained behavior. The vibration brings the user into awareness and allows them to make a different choice. Keen has helped thousands of people worldwide suffering from trichotillomania (hair pulling), dermatillomania (skin picking) and onychophagia (nail biting). Learn more at www.habitaware.com.
About The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors
The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors is the world’s leading authority on hair pulling, skin picking, and related disorders that affect at least three percent of the population. TLC takes a comprehensive approach to helping people overcome their disorder and heal by creating a community of support for affected individuals, providing referrals to treatment specialists and resources, training professionals to recognize and treat BFRBs, and directing research into their causes, treatment, and prevention. The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1991 as the Trichotillomania Learning Center. Learn more at www.bfrb.org.
About the Minnesota High Tech Association
The Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) is an innovation and technology association united in fueling Minnesota’s prosperity and making Minnesota a top five technology state. We help bring together the people of Minnesota’s technology ecosystem and lead the charge in directing technology issues to Minnesota’s state capitol. MN SBIR, based at MHTA, is the state’s focal point to assist seed, early stage, emerging and existing firms (1-500 employees) to successfully access non-dilutive federal funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) Programs. MN SBIR is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the University of Minnesota Office for Technology Commercialization. Learn more at www.mhta.org.

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